GMP officer 'lucky not to lose his sight' during football protest

A 28-year-old man has been arrested after six police officers were injured in violent clashes during a protest by Manchester United fans ahead of a match against Liverpool.

May 4, 2021
By Website Editor
More than 100 people stormed the pitch at Old Trafford.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said one officer sustained a fractured eye socket and another a facial wound when bottles, cans and barriers were thrown at them at Old Trafford.

The force did not say what offence the man had been arrested on suspicion of, but added it was “reviewing all obtainable evidence” to identify the organisers of the demonstration and those responsible for assaulting officers.

It happened after around 100 fans stormed the pitch at Old Trafford on Sunday (May 2) ahead of the game in protest at United’s American owners, the Glazer family.

GMP assistant chief constable Nick Bailey, said: “The behaviour shown at this protest was absolutely atrocious.

“Officers were just trying to do their job and facilitate a peaceful protest, however a number of those present became hostile and aggressive towards officers and forced entry to the football grounds, making it very clear that this protest was not peaceful and ruining it for the majority of protesters who had not intended for the protest to become violent.”

Greater Manchester Police Federation said the officer who sustained an eye injury was “lucky not to lose his sight”.

The officer, with around 20 years’ service, suffered a significant slash wound to his face, according to the federation. It has not named the officer but said he remains in “lots of pain” and will need an extended period off work to recover.

Stu Berry, chair of the federation, said: “Our brave colleague went to work yesterday to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe – and he ended up coming under attack. He is incredibly lucky not to have lost the sight in an eye.

“This is not right. Police officers are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and partners. They are sons and daughters. They are human beings who should be able to go home to their families in one piece at the end of their shifts. Not be rushed to hospital.

“We are offering support to our injured colleague and will continue to do so as he recovers from his injuries.”

Mr Berry said police officers needed better equipment to protect themselves during demonstrations following violence at previous protests in London and Bristol in recent weeks.

He said: “We are witnessing colleagues come under relentless attack wearing not much more than a flat cap and a hi-vis jacket and with a baton to keep themselves safe. Our officers must be properly protected and appropriately equipped with public order gear – including helmets and shields – when policing these protesters.

“This will in no way be the last demonstration UK police officers have to encounter as the nation unlocks and our courageous colleagues are bearing the brunt of public frustration. They must have the appropriate kit available to protect themselves.

“Officers are not – and never will be – punchbags for people protesting for their cause. We have seen too many images of police officers at protests over recent weeks with blood gushing from their faces. How many more do we have to see? How badly does a police officer have to be injured before we do something?”

Outside the ground, injuries were inflicted as a group began hurling bottles and barriers at officers and horses in violence which should be condemned in “the strongest possible terms” by football pundits, clubs and players, according to Police Federation of England and Wales national chair John Apter.

He said: “Yet again we’ve seen a so-called peaceful protest turn to violence with that aimed at my colleagues. Officers were injured and required hospital treatment. This is completely unacceptable.”

Police said that by late Sunday afternoon around 200 protesters had gathered outside the Lowry theatre and more than 1,000 at the stadium.

Firecrackers were let off outside the ground as protesters marched towards the Munich Tunnel with green and yellow smoke filling the air.

Red fences put in front of the East Stand did not last long as the handful of stewards were swiftly overcome and barriers toppled.

Safety and security fears forced the match, which was supposed to kick-off at 4.30pm, to be postponed. It is to take place on a date which has yet to be set.

Manchester United said it will “work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season ticket holder or member identified, per the published sanctions policy.”

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said there was “no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others”.

Manchester United were among 12 clubs that last month signed up for the breakaway Super League, which collapsed within 48 hours due to huge opposition.

Following the protest, the Premier League said it understood the fans’ “strength of feeling”, but condemned “all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches”.

The Football Association said it is also investigating.

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